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Game 53 Preview: Into The Serpent's Hole

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Very few mongooses, however old and wise, care to follow a cobra into its hole. You never know when the hole may open out and give the cobra room to strike

-Rudyard Kipling

The last time the Jackets faced the Penguins, the Jackets were embarrassed on their home ice. There's no other word for it. Flooded with opposing fans, dominated on the ice, and retreating into the locker room to heckles and booing, it was simply a painful evening. 

Since then, much has changed. Sidney Crosby has been lost to a concussion - perhaps for the rest of the regular season. Evgeni Malkin has been put on the shelf with knee surgery, done for the year. Early rookie of the year candidate Mark Letestu has been shut down for at least a month. The Pens have responded by tightening up defensively, as a helpful scouting report has told us, but in their last outing, they found themselves unable to find their offense.

So now, just like Rikki Tikki Tavi, Rick Nash and the rest of the Jackets must pursue the serpent back to its' hole to extract revenge...and there is no more dangerous beast than a wounded animal defending its' lair.

Essentials:

Game Time: 7:00 pm EST
TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
Radio: 97.1 WFAN-FM
Blue Jackets vs Penguins coverage
Opponent's Blog: PensBurgh 

Tonight is a chance for revenge, but the Jackets have to play smart. Even without Crosby and Malkin, I'm not sure the Jackets can simply try to out-skill the Pens. Tonight has to be all about the work. Both teams will try to out grind the other, and the Jackets have to keep sharp and look for opportunities.

On the plus side? They've been pretty good at that lately.

Keys To The Game:

  • PK Fire - The Penguins' penalty kill is the best in the NHL at 88.9%, and they've scored 8 short handed goals on the year, just behind the Rangers for tops in the league in that category. That means that when the Jackets get opportunities, it'll be crucial to score, and vital to keep the puck moving in the zone, not allowing the Pens to break out and attempt to take advantage.
  • Home Cookeing - Matt Cooke isn't just an agitator. He might be the dirtiest player in the NHL right now. The Jackets have to keep their heads up when he's on the ice, and if he does push things over the edge, make sure he pays for his misdeeds.
  • Wild, Wild East - The last time the Jackets met the Penguins in the CONSOL energy center during the pre-season, we had a pretty exciting game of hockey surrounded by a bushel of fights. Despite being in opposing conferences, a fair bit of bad blood has built up between them, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if we see more guys drop the gloves tonight. 
  • Orange Letang - Kris Letang is probably the Pens' best offensive weapon with their top forwards out, with 41 points in 54 games. (That's production equal to Methot, Klesla, Hejda, and Clitsome's combined point totals this year.) The Jackets need to spike his guns and prevent him from making plays at the blue line.
  • Early Birds - The Pens have given up the first goal in three of their last four games. The Jackets should look to keep that trend going to help them get up on top.
The Pens are always a tough test, but two points here would be huge, especially since the Jackets will have to get turned back around afterwards to take on the Sharks in Columbus tomorrow. Even better, it's a game where going to OT would not help one of their competitors in the West if they need a little extra time to bring home the win. There won't be many more opportunities like this - the Jackets have to seize it.

 

Blue Jackets Information:

Team Page  Schedule
Roster Stats

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash Derick Brassard Jakub Voracek
R.J. Umberger Antoine Vermette Kristian Huselius
Andrew Murray Samuel Pahlsson Derek Dorsett
Matt Calvert Derek MacKenzie Jared Boll

 

Jan Hejda John Moore
Fedor Tyutin Marc Methot
Grant Clitsome Kris Russell

 

Steve Mason
Mathieu Garon

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Chris Kunitz Dustin Jeffrey Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke Jordan Staal Tyler Kennedy
Mike Rupp Max Talbot Chris Conner
Tim Wallace Craig Adams

Eric Godard

 

Kris Letang Brooks Orpik

Zbynek Michalek

Paul Martin
Alex Goligoski Deryk Engelland

 

Marc-Andre Fleury
Brent Johnson

 

Tidbit: The puck, in its' current form of a solid disc of vulcanized rubber, is 135 years old today.